SOTA: W3/CR-003

A boulder-strewn area surrounded by trees. In the distance, the western horizon
Operating position, with view to the west, towards the Potomac River and Virginia.

I was in the Washington, DC area for a day, and couldn’t resist activating Sugarloaf Mountain — it is just too convenient a SOTA peak to ignore. Everytime I’m in the area, I think about going up it, but often summer weather has foiled those plans. Not this time, though. It was a sunny day for my 45 minute drive out from Bethesda, MD to the trailhead.

Reaching the summit

The quickest way to the top is to follow the green trail, which starts right at the western parking lot. There are some portajohns and maps at the base of the trail.

Steep cliffs flank the dirt path and stairs that lead to the summit. On the way up, I saw a number of climbers practicing rappelling to each side. Once at the top, I followed the trail westward, just past the peak, but at essentially the same elevation. After a short walk, I came to a clearing with some nice flat boulders surrounded by tall trees to support my end-fed antenna.

A dirt path winds between trees towards the operating position in the distance.
The path westwards towards the clearing.


The background noise level was pretty low, and I made about ten contacts on 20m and 40m. The K index had just spiked to five right before I started operation, so I considered that reasonable. I did have one surprise: ZL1BYZ. I have only worked New Zealand about five times from the US, but this was the first one at QRP levels, and with a portable antenna to boot.

I tried FM, and indeed hear lots of chatting on the national calling frequency, but couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I dialed around on 2m, and then tried 446, but had no takers. If I had persisted or reached out on the local repeaters, I’m sure I could have lined up some more VHF/UHF contacts, but I was trying to get down the mountain and back to Virginia for a meeting of the Vienna Wireless Society later that evening, so I called it a day and walked back to the car.

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